By Lisa Morgan, staff contributor, American Red Cross
Most mornings as I walk into the Red Cross office I am greeted with a warm smile from the front desk volunteer, Kathryn Keispert. She asks about my son, and I ask about her children: six adults out of the nest and one teenager itching to be all grown up. Naturally, she gets a little teary-eyed. I imagine it is from reflecting on all of the “growing up” journeys of her children and realizing where they all are in their adult lives now.
Kathryn is the mother of two sons that serve in the United States Army. Matthew is active duty, and Lucas is an Army reservist in Washington state. Her sons inspired her volunteerism with the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) at the Red Cross and the USO.
Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) are the last place that newly enlisted military personnel will see their loved ones before going off to basic training.
“It’s so emotional and touching witnessing young people take this oath of service,” said Kathryn.
Her sons took their oaths in Washington, so while she missed theirs, she has witnessed many here in the Dallas area. As an SAF or USO MEPS volunteer, she shares the Red Cross Emergency Communication card.
“I pass these out to the families, especially the parents, when they are watching their son or daughter leave to go to basic training. I remind them that on the back, as long as they have their soldier’s social security number and unit information, we [Red Cross] can get an emergency message to them in about four hours, if needed,” said Kathryn.
When asked about the challenges of being a mother of soldiers, Kathryn said, “Them being in the military changed me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. If I know where they are deployed, I am paying more attention to the political climate there. I also pay a great deal more attention to how national politics here impact the resources of our military.”
Since her sons have been in the military, Kathryn has collected a number of touching memories. One that sticks out the most to her is of Matthew’s first deployment.
“Matthew’s first deployment was to Afghanistan; I didn’t know how long he would be there. Then, one day the doorbell rang and standing in front of me was Matthew! I cried and cried and cried. I knew how dangerous Afghanistan was and to know that my son was standing in front of me at my house after completing his first tour, I was beyond proud, excited and happy that one of my heartbeats was home,” she recalled.
Always willing to pass on parenting pearls of wisdom, Kathryn shared that she believes the most important thing to know for a parent sitting in the MEPS with their son or daughter is to, “be proud of the child you raise.” Your son or daughter has stepped up to a challenge that many pass: they want to be affiliated with the defenders of freedom.
The Red Cross provides a number of services or referrals to resources to help our military members, veterans and their families through deployment support services, emergency communications and more. To learn more visit us at www.redcross.org/saf.
To Kathryn and all mothers celebrating this Mother’s Day – Happy Mother’s Day!